She was born Sarah Breedlove on a plantation in Delta, Louisiana, where her parents had been slaves. At 14, she married to get a home of her own, to get away from a cruel brother-in-law with whom she was living. At 17, she had her only child, A'Lelia, who I'm named after.
For all my life, I've been trying to tell Madam's story and really it's a labor of love just to make sure people know about her and the empowerment she gave to other women.
I've always been fascinated by Madam Walker's ability to use her money for political causes. I find her story so inspires people that it gives me great joy to share the story.
For more than three years, I'd been part of a complex and frustrating dance as my nonfiction, fact-based material was translated from book to movie by scriptwriters whose visions, goals and sensibilities often were quite different from mine.
I'd seen how 'Green Book' had been a box-office hit, but left pianist Don Shirley's family feeling betrayed because his life and relationships had been distorted.
There are literally hundreds of stories about women of color that haven't been told that are amazing, fantastic, better than anything else.
We didn't sit around the dining table talking about Madam Walker, but the silverware that we used every day had her monogram on it and our china for special occasions had been Madam Walker's china... and the baby grand piano on which I learned to read music had been in A'Lelia Walker's apartment in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance.
I've often been accused of dressing too well. I've always been fascinated by fashion, though I don't think I'm particularly fashionable.
Americans have been remarkably devoted to the capacity for belief, to idealism. That's why we get into trouble all the time. We're always viewed as naive.
My goal has been to encourage jointness, to push people to think of affiliations rather than to operate as solo entrepreneurs.